Developers: Steam Controller "Doesn't Feel Like a Trackpad"

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Developers: Steam Controller "Doesn't Feel Like a Trackpad"

Steam controller

Developers who have had first-hand experience with Valve's new Steam Controller say it isn't just different for the sake of being different - it's a very clever device.

Valve officially unveiled the Steam Controller earlier today, and... well, it's different. Between the rear paddles and the high-tech trackpads in lieu of analog sticks, it's unlike any controller on the market - but as always, the big question is "Will it be any good?" The team at Valve seems to think so, but just to make sure, they invited a few developers to try the controller hands-on a few weeks ago. Now that the cat's out of the bag, those developers can share their thoughts with us.

"These are not like laptop trackpads," says Dan Tabar, developer at indie studio Data Realms. "Everyone is like, 'Oh we're replacing thumbsticks with trackpads, oh shit.' But this is not at all like a laptop trackpad. It just feels good. It's a challenge to verbally describe it." Tabar noted that he was less excited about the touchscreen in the center of the controller, but thought it had potential.

Double Fine's Chris Remo echoed Tabar's thoughts on the trackpad. He explained that the controller makes a ticking noise in addition to its tactile feedback to let users know how much they're moving on the pad, like a clicking scroll wheel on a mouse. "It sounds like there's actually a mechanical device in there," Remo says. "It just feels really high-tech and precise ... I can't stand trackpads on laptops, and this felt really good to me. There was almost no learning curve as far as accuracy goes."

There you have it - the Steam Controller's first two testimonials. If you'd rather try it out for yourself, well, you'll probably be waiting for a while. The 300 Steam users who end up beta testing Steam Machines will receive prototype controllers, but the rest of us won't see them until Valve starts rolling out its hardware in 2014.

Source: Gamasutra

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Did they not kinda explain that in the announcement? Didn't people read it :P ? This doesn't even look like a laptop trackpad :P
Well, I might really want to get one of these thingies, more then the Steam OS and the steambox.

Yes, because the most reliable way to get information about a new product's quality is from the press release announcing it.

This is probably the most interesting thing to me out of the three announcements. Would love for this to actually be good.

Sounds like it's not as good as dual sticks for a game designed for dual sticks... but that it's a lot more versatile and far better for something like an FPS.

For something this weird it you really need to try it in person.

It may be a very functional device that we all come to love.

But right now, all I see is WALL-E's evil twin STEaM-E.

I'm very interested in the controller, if not the entire thing as a whole. I use controllers for certain games (specially racing) but I find the Xbox controller somewhat awkward, maybe because I'm used to the Playstation controllers, so I'm eagerly waiting more info on this.

So, all the people whining about it being like a laptop trackpad without reading the announcement or using one first hand, had no idea what they were talking about?

Color me surprised! Truly I am shocked to my very core!

Anyway I am glad they think it is cool, I really really want to try one.

I still hope they will announce some games to go along with this hardware and stuff.

Also I'm getting the impression Valve will make their fans work on steamOS optimization, improvements and compatibility with games whereas they will focus on making hats and running away with all the money.

james.sponge:
I still hope they will announce some games to go along with this hardware and stuff.

Also I'm getting the impression Valve will make their fans work on steamOS optimization, improvements and compatibility with games whereas they will focus on making hats and running away with all the money.

Any linux games will work.

This isn't a console, its a scaled down Linux PC meant to work with Linux PC games. Its no different from a linux PC hooked up to your TV.

.... Which steam put incentives for devs to make ports and linux games in the first place for a while. Their catalog of linux games has been growing well before this.

Games aren't the issue. They already exist.

I'm slightly worried about how the X and Y buttons are apparently meant to be pressed by your left thumb rather than your right, as is usually the case. So if you need to, for instance, reload, you need to take your thumb off the left trackpad and therefore stop moving? I'm sure they've foreseen this problem and have a way around it, but for the moment I'm pretty confused about how this is supposed to work. There's a reason all four face buttons have been on the right hand side of the controller since the original PlayStation.

Some of the confusion seems to be that the ABXY buttons serve the same purpose as the ones on the xbox controller, when they really don't. They are more like the start and back buttons, plus this is meant for pc, don't like the default controls? Rebind them.

Anachronism:
I'm slightly worried about how the X and Y buttons are apparently meant to be pressed by your left thumb rather than your right, as is usually the case. So if you need to, for instance, reload, you need to take your thumb off the left trackpad and therefore stop moving? I'm sure they've foreseen this problem and have a way around it, but for the moment I'm pretty confused about how this is supposed to work. There's a reason all four face buttons have been on the right hand side of the controller since the original PlayStation.

Those X&Y buttons aren't actually equivalents to the xbox versions, but more for games where you'd need a button mapped to TAB for scores, or I for Inventory, buttons you wouldn't press frequently enough for the having to stop moving to be an issue. I believe that the traditional face buttons will be where you'd normally expect them to be, but not in button form.
I expect tapping the bottom of the right trackpad to be equivalent to pressing, A on an xbox. Don't quote me on this.
Just going with what information has been released so far and developer feedback.

hmm the first console thats perked my interest since the ps2 and its got an inovative controller at that

Charcharo:
Did they not kinda explain that in the announcement? Didn't people read it :P ? This doesn't even look like a laptop trackpad :P
Well, I might really want to get one of these thingies, more then the Steam OS and the steambox.

Of course people didn't read it. Too many don't seem to grasp that you can fully rebind it and flame based on their notion of regular controllers.

http://tommyrefenes.tumblr.com/post/62476523677/my-time-with-the-steam-controller

The experience with the controller from a SMB dev. It also shows that this thing is far from being finished.

I think one of the secrets are the circles visible on the trackpads. They could provide more feedback on the position of the thumbs. The problem with typical touchpads and touchscreens is that you can easily leave the tracking area without realizing it and then have to reposition.

If these pads can provide feedback on thumb position, they may indeed be equal or better to thumbsticks. But we'll have to see for real.

CrazyFikus:
Some of the confusion seems to be that the ABXY buttons serve the same purpose as the ones on the xbox controller, when they really don't. They are more like the start and back buttons, plus this is meant for pc, don't like the default controls? Rebind them.

Then what buttons do serve that purpose? Cause you kinda need something to click to do stuff :)

Vrach:

CrazyFikus:
Some of the confusion seems to be that the ABXY buttons serve the same purpose as the ones on the xbox controller, when they really don't. They are more like the start and back buttons, plus this is meant for pc, don't like the default controls? Rebind them.

Then what buttons do serve that purpose? Cause you kinda need something to click to do stuff :)

The trackpat can serve as button. Want to press the right button? Press on the right side of the trackpat.

Amaror:

Vrach:

CrazyFikus:
Some of the confusion seems to be that the ABXY buttons serve the same purpose as the ones on the xbox controller, when they really don't. They are more like the start and back buttons, plus this is meant for pc, don't like the default controls? Rebind them.

Then what buttons do serve that purpose? Cause you kinda need something to click to do stuff :)

The trackpat can serve as button. Want to press the right button? Press on the right side of the trackpat.

Was my first thought, yeah, but don't see improvement in it :/

Vrach:

Amaror:

Vrach:

Then what buttons do serve that purpose? Cause you kinda need something to click to do stuff :)

The trackpat can serve as button. Want to press the right button? Press on the right side of the trackpat.

Was my first thought, yeah, but don't see improvement in it :/

The trackpads are clickable but there are also trigger, shoulder and back buttons, you have access to 8 buttons without having to lift your thumbs off the trackpads.

It will definitely be an adjustment and it'll take getting used to but only time will tell if it works.

Ultratwinkie:

james.sponge:
I still hope they will announce some games to go along with this hardware and stuff.

Also I'm getting the impression Valve will make their fans work on steamOS optimization, improvements and compatibility with games whereas they will focus on making hats and running away with all the money.

Any linux games will work.

This isn't a console, its a scaled down Linux PC meant to work with Linux PC games. Its no different from a linux PC hooked up to your TV.

.... Which steam put incentives for devs to make ports and linux games in the first place for a while. Their catalog of linux games has been growing well before this.

Games aren't the issue. They already exist.

I didn't mean there won't be a library of games to play on this machine it's just that Valve started as a game developer I was hoping for some information concerning possible sequels to half life/portal/l4d or perhaps some other ip they've been working on and didn't announce.

Hm... so the track pads can be set to feel like there are buttons underneath? At least this is what I understand from the articles about it (here, Kotaku etc).
Sounds interesting.

Whatislove:

Vrach:

Amaror:

The trackpat can serve as button. Want to press the right button? Press on the right side of the trackpat.

Was my first thought, yeah, but don't see improvement in it :/

The trackpads are clickable but there are also trigger, shoulder and back buttons, you have access to 8 buttons without having to lift your thumbs off the trackpads.

It will definitely be an adjustment and it'll take getting used to but only time will tell if it works.

Ugh, not too good on the terminology... shoulder buttons are the usual 4 right (L1/L2/R1/R2)? What would the trigger and back ones be then?

Sorry, recent console user (after a long, long while), always been a PC player :)

If it's 8 buttons without having to give up moving around, that's fantastic, but I didn't see them here.

Vrach:

Whatislove:

Vrach:

Was my first thought, yeah, but don't see improvement in it :/

The trackpads are clickable but there are also trigger, shoulder and back buttons, you have access to 8 buttons without having to lift your thumbs off the trackpads.

It will definitely be an adjustment and it'll take getting used to but only time will tell if it works.

Ugh, not too good on the terminology... shoulder buttons are the usual 4 right (L1/L2/R1/R2)? What would the trigger and back ones be then?

Sorry, recent console user (after a long, long while), always been a PC player :)

If it's 8 buttons without having to give up moving around, that's fantastic, but I didn't see them here.

I'm not 100% sure myself but after looking at the diagrams on steam, it looks like there are 2 shoulders buttons and 2 trigger buttons where your traditional L1/L2/R1/R2 are and then 2 large buttons on the back close to where your fingers would normally rest.

Those 2 buttons look long/large though so I will assume that they are 2 buttons each (like press the bottom of it and it's 1 button and press the top for the other button) which would account for the 8 buttons valve says are reachable without moving your thumbs.

All the pictures and info are here:
http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/SteamController/

Charles LaRue:
Yes, because the most reliable way to get information about a new product's quality is from the press release announcing it.

Yeah, but a guy from Double Fine said it was good, and Tim Schafer is PC gaming's super jesus.

Vrach:

Amaror:

Vrach:

Then what buttons do serve that purpose? Cause you kinda need something to click to do stuff :)

The trackpat can serve as button. Want to press the right button? Press on the right side of the trackpat.

Was my first thought, yeah, but don't see improvement in it :/

Just of the top of my head i would see it as an improvement that it's digital. Depending on the framwork Developers might be able to adjust the number of buttons for the game.
You could have one button, 4 buttons or maybe even 8 buttons.

Whatislove:

Vrach:

Whatislove:

The trackpads are clickable but there are also trigger, shoulder and back buttons, you have access to 8 buttons without having to lift your thumbs off the trackpads.

It will definitely be an adjustment and it'll take getting used to but only time will tell if it works.

Ugh, not too good on the terminology... shoulder buttons are the usual 4 right (L1/L2/R1/R2)? What would the trigger and back ones be then?

Sorry, recent console user (after a long, long while), always been a PC player :)

If it's 8 buttons without having to give up moving around, that's fantastic, but I didn't see them here.

I'm not 100% sure myself but after looking at the diagrams on steam, it looks like there are 2 shoulders buttons and 2 trigger buttons where your traditional L1/L2/R1/R2 are and then 2 large buttons on the back close to where your fingers would normally rest.

Those 2 buttons look long/large though so I will assume that they are 2 buttons each (like press the bottom of it and it's 1 button and press the top for the other button) which would account for the 8 buttons valve says are reachable without moving your thumbs.

All the pictures and info are here:
http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/SteamController/

Ah, it has grip buttons... crossed my mind, but didn't see that picture, thanks for the link :)

Looks decent. Which is enough really, the rest is up to how it feels, won't know that until we try it out... but I'm a bit suspicious still over what the trackpads add. Digital isn't better than analog, it gives more options, but there's no palpable feedback from actually pressing a button (or at least, not the same way, I know you CAN click trackpads, but the feedback is not really great, to me at least)

I have to say, I am extremely optimistic about this.

I think I wants one right now.

Vrach:

I'm a bit suspicious still over what the trackpads add. Digital isn't better than analog, it gives more options, but there's no palpable feedback from actually pressing a button (or at least, not the same way, I know you CAN click trackpads, but the feedback is not really great, to me at least)

The trackpads are not supposed to "add to" analog joysticks, or to buttons, approximating their use is good eough, the main point is to also add an absolute positional control input (like a mouse) instead of only directional control (like a joystick).

With joysticks, you can only "steer" a cursor (or a crosshair) in a preferred direction, with a speed dictated by the pushing angle. With a mouse, the screen is directly mapped out under your wrist, and with a laptop trackpad, under your index fingerm so you can jump anywhere with a single quick movement.

You are right, in that this "Steamroller" is not necessarily an improvement over a standard console controller alone, but the point is not that, it is to have multiple input methods, to imitate BOTH analog joysticks AND mouses.

If this works the way I imagine it works, this might just revolutionize controllers.

Vrach:

Whatislove:

Vrach:

Was my first thought, yeah, but don't see improvement in it :/

The trackpads are clickable but there are also trigger, shoulder and back buttons, you have access to 8 buttons without having to lift your thumbs off the trackpads.

It will definitely be an adjustment and it'll take getting used to but only time will tell if it works.

Ugh, not too good on the terminology... shoulder buttons are the usual 4 right (L1/L2/R1/R2)? What would the trigger and back ones be then?

Sorry, recent console user (after a long, long while), always been a PC player :)

If it's 8 buttons without having to give up moving around, that's fantastic, but I didn't see them here.

the controller has a total of 16 buttons, with several that are confirmed to act as several buttons depending on where you push them and how you map the controls. Allow me to list the buttons below. I'll mark buttons that can be pushed without lifting your thumbs with a * and buttons that can be mapped to be multiple buttons with a + .

Left Trackpad. * +
Right Trackpad. * +
Left Shoulder Button (equivalent to LB or L1) *
Right Shoulder Button (equivalent to RB or R1) *
Left Trigger Button (equivalent to LT or L2) *
Right Trigger Button (equivalent to RT or R2) *
Left Back Button (completely new to controllers, to be pushed by your middle to pinky fingers while they support the controller) *
Right Back Button *
A Button
B Button
X Button
Y Button
3 Buttons along the bottom bar
Touch Screen (which is not like most touch screens in that it's an actual button that you have to push down before it registers, hovering your finger over the screen will just bring up the overlay on your TV screen so you can see what you're pushing) +

Hope that helps everyone confused by this controller

I dunno, I'm sure Steam tested it out quite a bit before deciding on it, but I can't imagine trying to control a computer or play my current games with a trackpad. It might be a lot better than a laptop trackpad, but at least those I can control with any finger I want that feels comfortable, forcing me to do it with my thumbs just doesn't seem right or precise to me.

It seemed like we had finally figured out a pretty good basic design when it came to controllers that everyone has sort of agreed on (except Nintendo but eh), and now it seems like we're going back to the N64/Dreamcast era of novelty controllers. I just don't see what it will offer that the next-gen controllers won't.

I'm withholding judgement until I see a price point. I already want one (badly, even) and will pay a fair sum for it, but if it is over $100 (which I HIGHLY doubt, but you never know), it'll just be too expensive for its worth.

Charcharo:
Did they not kinda explain that in the announcement? Didn't people read it :P

Yeah, I mean, if you can't trust a company's assessment of the quality of their own product, who can you trust?

:p

The only way it doesn't really look like a track pad is in terms of texture, and I've seen them with ridges before.

Of course, my first thought was more the Turbo Touch 360 and "No More Numb Thumb!"

I mean, I'll wait and see on this before I actually render a serious judgment, but "it's a trackpad, but totally not like THOSE trackpads" doesn't instill me with confidence when it's part of the marketing.

Anachronism:
I'm slightly worried about how the X and Y buttons are apparently meant to be pressed by your left thumb rather than your right, as is usually the case. So if you need to, for instance, reload, you need to take your thumb off the left trackpad and therefore stop moving? I'm sure they've foreseen this problem and have a way around it, but for the moment I'm pretty confused about how this is supposed to work. There's a reason all four face buttons have been on the right hand side of the controller since the original PlayStation.

Doesn't that assume "reload" is mapped to one of the left buttons?

I would think any game built with this in mind would do something different.

I not totally convinced. I'd need to try it myself.

I mean, not having analog sticks would feel really weird...

Then again, that neatly solved the problem of analog sticks getting loose and being forever stuck on "move forward" like my last 360 controller. >: s

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